It took me 10 hours by coach to reach my current location from Nelson. Franz Josef is a beautiful village at the base of Franz Josef Glacier on the West coast, which forms part of Mount Cook National Park (home of spectacular snow capped mountains). It is a tiny village with its sole purpose in accommodating the 300,000 tourists it attracts every year. It has a few backpackers hostels, couple of small motels, grocery store, information/booking centres and a couple of cafe's. Activities you can do here include Heli-Hikes to the Frans Josef or Fox Glacier, treks on the glaciers by foot, quad biking, horse riding, kayaking and rain forest treks.
I booked into the 'Montrose' Backpackers Hostel at $23 per night for three nights and was given a bunk in a 4 person dorm. Here I met Dave from Portsmouth who supported Arsenal? He got some stick off me when the Toon drew with them this weekend at their place ha ha! It's a friendly hostel that is my favourite so far because of its open plan style. The common room is very large with lots of sofas and huge cushions for dossing around, with the kitchen at the other end of the room. There is a never ending supply of DVD's being watched either by backpackers from all over the world and I'm sick of watching 'Dirty Dancing'! It has its own BBQ area and spa outside but these haven't been used whilst I've been here due to the weather. Yes its still raining!
Yesterday I enrolled on the 2 hour quad biking session and had an absolutely fantastic time! You get kitted out in all the gear and basically scream around rivers and mud tracks 2 feet deep to your hearts content. I was with four other tourists, two of which were police officers from London (would you believe it) and two from Kualar Lumpur in Malaysia (slow coaches) I would definately reccomend doing this to anyone visiting as the terrain is absolutely perfect for it. It cost $115 which is about 40 pound and expect to get covered in water and mud which I did!
This morning I took a walk up to the base of Franz Josef Glacier (named by Julius Von Haast in 1863 after the emporor at the time) which is awesome if your not used to staring at millions of tons of ice making its way down a mountain valley twice the height of Sca Fell Pike (which I'm not). It was a two hour round trip and was nice to stretch my legs a bit.
This afternoon I took a helicopter trip onto Franz Josef Glacier and hiked on it for two hours. You are provided with all the gear including crampons and its a must to do. Until you stand on a glacier like this you dont realise how awesone what nature can produce. It is 12km long, 300m deep at the top and is the only glacier in the world that is currently expanding and advancing down its valley (between 1 - 5m per day!). What a fantastic experience it is negotiating your way through deep cravasses, worm holes and seeing the colours it produces.
Anyway, off to Wanaka tomorrow to skydive and take a flight to Milford Sound.